Palestinians in Post-War Lebanon

From Refugees to Minority

by Julie Peteet
published in MER200

As Lebanon’s elite strategizes post-war reconstruction and national reconciliation, the future of the Palestinian community in the country hinges on the outcome of the Arab-Israeli peace talks, particularly the multilateral talks on refugees. [1] Popular sentiment holds that “peace” will not produce the conditions for return or compensation. In the meantime, Palestinians living in camps in Lebanon face insurmountable odds, including poverty, unemployment and political disenfranchisement.

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The Modernity of Sectarianism in Lebanon

Reconstructing the Nation-State

by Ussama Makdisi
published in MER200

On February 15, 1996, 13 squatters were killed in Beirut when the building they were living in was brought down by demolition workers for Solidere, Lebanon’s reconstruction and development company. Solidere, a brainchild of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, claimed it was a mistake; the dead were carted off, destitute migrants with no place in the government’s vision of the revitalized cosmopolitan city center. Brushing off criticism that reconstruction is proceeding too fast, the prime minister insisted that Lebanon today is the site of “a struggle between good and evil.” The alternatives facing the nation, he insisted, are clear: either the “will to progress” or “the will to despair.”

Secularism and Personal Status Codes in Lebanon

Interview with Marie Rose Zalzal

by Suad Joseph
published in MER203

Marie Rose Zalzal is secretary general for Tayyar al-‘Ilmani (Movement for Secularism) and a practicing lawyer in Abu Rumana, Matn, Lebanon. Part of a research project on the impact of Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990) on women, the interview was conducted by Suad Joseph on September 29, October 6 and December 19, 1994 and updated on February 11, 1997.

What is the Tayyar al-‘Ilmani?

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Never-Never Land

On Khiam Prison in Southern Lebanon

by Aviv Lavie
published in MER203

Just north of Metula, there is a hill in Israel that offers a breathtaking view of the northern Galilee, the upper Jordan valley and southern Lebanon. Also within view from this hill, about ten kilometers north of Metula -- in what Israel calls its “security zone” and the Lebanese call territory occupied by Israel -- is a well-defended stone building known as Khiam prison, the largest interrogation and torture installation in Lebanon. While the South Lebanon Army (SLA) directly manages the installation, it is but a subcontractor, an unskilled worker who takes orders directly from the big boss -- the state of Israel.

Disappearances

Syrian Impunity in Lebanon

by Virginia N. Sherry
published in MER203

Some of the cases are old but certainly not forgotten. The most recent inquiry that I received about a “disappearance” in Lebanon came in April 1997 from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The caller was a Palestinian whose brother, Rushdi Rashid Hamdan Shihab, “disappeared” in Sidon in October 1987. “At 10 am, he left his car with a mechanic at a gas station, saying that he would return in the evening to pick it up,” his brother said. Shihab, the father of three who was 42 at the time, did not return to the station that evening. And he was never seen again in Lebanon. Family members traveled to Jordan and Syria, seeking information about his whereabouts, but came up with nothing solid.

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Skirting Democracy

Lebanon's 1996 Elections and Beyond

by Paul Salem
published in MER203

The practice of selecting political representatives by voting is not new to Lebanon. The parliamentary framework of modern electoral life in Lebanon was established in the 1926 constitution. Elections were held regularly during the French Mandate period, except for interruptions during World War II. Throughout the Mandate period, two thirds of the parliament was elected on the basis of universal male suffrage (women first voted in the 1950s); the remaining one third was appointed by the French authorities. The practice of appointment ended at independence in 1943.

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Syrian Involvement in Lebanon

by Volker Perthes
published in MER203

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Myths and Money

Four Years of Hariri and Lebanon's Preparation for a New Middle East

by Volker Perthes
published in MER203

“The price of prosperity has already been paid,” read an ad that Lebanon’s Investment Development Authority ran in the summer of 1996. “Now is the time to harvest.” The ad also mentioned, euphemistically, that the price had been “a period of unrest.” The message was meant to convince international investors that Lebanon has reemerged as a stable location for big finance and capital. At the same time, it reflected the feeling of many Lebanese that the civil war (1975-1990) had been due to external, regional, rather than internal, domestic circumstances, and that Lebanon therefore ought to be compensated for all the suffering.

To Clear the Minefield

by Karen Pfeifer
published in MER207

Irene Gendzier, Notes from the Minefield: United States Intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East, 1945-1958 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).

With the February 1998 news that the Clinton administration was preparing unilateral military action against Iraq, sectors of the US public seemed shocked by this unnecessarily violent turn in foreign policy. Gendzier’s scholarly sleuthing uncovers important clues for solving this puzzle and, in company with other literature, prompts us to think about constructive alternatives.

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